You can see all of the chapters (in descending order) here.
After unloading the cookstove into Mr. Crankston’s barn, Steven and Jess followed him as he gave them the grand tour of his bug out location. In addition to the huge barn which was equipped with ten horse stalls and several smaller pens that could hold goats or pigs, there was a chicken coop built into the far end of the barn.
“I do have several horses, a couple goats, and about half a dozen hens.” Ned Crankston admitted to Jess and Steve as they toured the barn.
“Where are they?” Jess asked as she peered into the empty chicken coup.
“My neighbor up the road boards them for me for now. It’s easier than asking them to come down here to feed and water them. I hope to be up here full time soon and then I’ll bring them back. I’m just trying to figure out what I want to do with my place back home.” Ned explained. Steve nodded.
“This is really a great setup. I bet the costs to have everything up and running would be a lot for one person though, huh?” Steve asked.
“Actually, this whole place is pretty much off grid.” Ned said. “The barn and main house are run entirely on the solar panel system I installed two years ago. I’ve also got a couple generators, one here for my workshop and another for the house.
There are two spring fed wells on the property. Each of the cabins have small rainwater catchment systems and composting toilets. I installed a larger rainwater catchment system last summer that is fed by the barn roof. It’s mainly for the animals but there’s enough to be a backup for the main house if I need it.
I come up every couple of months and make sure things are still in working order, just in case.” Ned said. Steve and Jess followed Ned out of the barn to the nearest cabin. “Just lanterns in here for now, since they aren’t being used. But one day I hope to get solar on the roof of each cabin for lights and hot water.” Ned explained.
“This cabin is great. Are they all the same size?” Jess asked.
“Most are exactly this layout, yes. There’s two larger cabins in the back and a bunk house type cabin, basically designed to sleep about twenty or so. The bunk house has showers and composting toilets, but just minimal kitchen facilities. There is a big fire pit for outdoor cooking.” Ned explained.
“So, who did you build all this for Ned?” Steve asked.
“Well initially, it was just the main house and the barn. I added my workshop. But this world kept getting worse and things weren’t looking good at all. Mary Lou and I wanted a safe place for our kids and grandkids to come if the need ever arose.
After Mary Lou passed, I got into that group I told ya about, and so I guess I built it thinking that those of us that wanted to could survive here if need be.” Ned admitted. “Several of them come help out when I have a big project so I haven’t quite done it all myself.” he winked.
“Wow, that’s quite a plan. And very generous of you to want to help provide for others. Not everyone is like that” Jess said.
“Hell, what use would it be to survive if it was just me? I kinda think of it as building a place for my family for the future I guess. I wouldn’t want to do it alone. Both my kids are out west right now.
I imagine there are other people who won’t want to go it alone either. So that’s why I’m in the group. Hoping it will turn out to be an asset for my future and theirs.” Ned said.
“A lot of people are convinced they can just run off into the woods alone. Every man for himself when SHTF. We don’t think that makes much sense.” Steve said. “I definitely like your plan better. Some type of mutual assistance group, people you learn to trust, that you can team up with to survive and then rebuild.” Steve added.
“Right.” Ned said. “That’s kind of the idea. We work together to survive and then work together to rebuild if necessary. But we’re getting started now.” Ned explained. “Hell, enough about that, let’s head up so I can show you the main house. She’s my pride and joy!”
Steven and Jess followed Ned Crankston up to the main house. “Come on in. Mi casa es su casa.” Ned announced as he held open the side door of the house. Jess and Steve stepped inside to find themselves in a huge garage. Parked on one side of the garage was an old Dodge Ram.
“That’s old Bessy. She’s gettin’ on in years, but she’s ready to go if the need ever arises.” Ned said. He led them around Bessy to the door of the house and they followed him inside.
“Wow, what a great kitchen. I really love that vintage cookstove.” Jess exclaimed.
“You like it? The whole kitchen was custom built to my wife’s preferences. This was her domain. The running water comes from the spring fed well. If need be, I can flip a switch in the garage and the water gets filtered in from the rainwater catchment instead. We have a greywater containment system. The cookstove was one of Mary Lou’s must have items. She called her Charlotte.” Jess smiled.
“She sounds like she was a wonderful woman.” Jess said.
“She was the best. She certainly taught this old dog a few new tricks.” Ned said with a grin. Ned led Jess and Steve around the house showing them with pride all of the custom touches.
“This power system with the battery bank is amazing.” Steve said as Ned showed them the closet at the back of the house that housed the power system.
“We could upgrade that solar system at your place, ya know.” Ned said. “Let me know next time you’re up this way and want to do it. I’ll come help you out.”
“That would be great. Not sure when that will be. I need to see how bad things are at home from the storm.” Steve said. He slid his arm around Jess and pulled her close. “We just renovated. It could all be gone for all we know.” Steve added. Jess frowned and shook her head.
“Oh come on now, grumpy gus. Let’s not worry about what we don’t know yet.” Jess suggested. “Show us the rest of your place, Ned.” Jess asked.
“Sure thing. Next on the tour is the outdoor kitchen.” Ned announced. He led them out the sliding glass doors off the kitchen and onto the deck. Off to one end of the deck was an outdoor kitchen setup, complete with a brick fire oven and a rocket stove.
“There’s a root cellar just over there. Out behind the outdoor kitchen is the food forest.” Ned pointed to where the trees began.
“You have a food forest?” Jess asked.
“Sure do. Since I’m not here all the time, keeping up with a traditional garden just wasn’t practical. But the food forest is something the wife and I started many years ago.
It’s quite plentiful now and it basically maintains itself. Once I’m up here full time though I’ll go in and plant some vegetables and fruits again in among the trees. Nature really is a wonderous thing when you know how it all works.” Ned said.
“It sounds like just about the perfect set up.” Steve said.
“We should do a food forest at our place Steve.” Jess suggested. Steve nodded.
“It’s certainly something to think about. If you start now, it will provide for years to come and be there if and when you need it.” Ned said. “And with the way this world is now…” Ned shook his head.
“Well, enough doom and gloom. How about something to eat? Can’t send you out on the road without food in your belly.” Ned said with a grin.
“That sounds great.” Steve said. “I know it hasn’t been that long since lunch, but I could eat.” he laughed and rubbed his stomach. “Not that I need it.” he added.
“Well, it won’t be as good as that meatless chilli Jess whipped up but I’m sure I can throw something together.” Ned said.
“Whatever is easy. We don’t want to be a bother.” Jess said.
“No trouble. You two have a seat at the table and I’ll pull something together.” Ned said. Steve and Jess sat at the table while Ned went to the pantry.
He pulled out several cans of chicken and a small unopened jar of miracle whip which he used to make chicken salad. From the box of supplies he’d brought with him he pulled out a loaf of bread, a bag of chips, and a jar of pickles packed in a plastic zip lock bag in case of breakage.
Ned set plates with sandwiches in front of Jess and Steve a few minutes later. “It’s not gourmet, but it’ll stave off any risk of starvation.” Ned said with a chuckle. He made himself a sandwich and joined them at the table. “I’ve been wanting to talk with you both a bit. Now seems like as good a time as any.” Ned said.
“Sure Ned, what’s on your mind?” Steve asked. He opened the jar of pickles and pulled one out as he waited for Ned’s response.
“Well, I mentioned that group I’m part of earlier. I’m actually not just a member anymore, I’m the leader as of last year. I’d like to ask you and Jess to join up with us.” Ned said.
“We think there’s a good possibility that something big is coming soon. I’d like to know you and them kids are safe and taken care of.” Ned admitted. Steve glanced at Jess and she nodded.
“Thanks Ned. That’s really kind of you. We’d like to hear more about it of course and we want to contribute somehow but we’re definitely interested.” Steve said.
“Alright then. Let me tell you a bit more about what we have in the works.” Ned said. He proceeded to fill them in on the activities of the group. “I told you about the monthly meetings where we get together to share information and practice skills.” Steve nodded.
“We also get together a couple times a year, the last few times it’s been here at my place. It’s looking like this will be the spot everyone will come to if things get really bad.
Most folks are within about 100 miles of here. Many of them have good setups and they’ll stay put if they can but if not, they’ll come here.” Ned said.
“That makes a lot of sense. Now I see why you have the bunk house and the cabins.” Jess said.
“Right. We have room if people need to come here.” Ned said. “But here’s the thing. We really think things could change for the worse and fairly soon.” Ned said. “I’ll email you some stuff you can read later about why we think that. It’s one of the reasons I’m planning to be living here full time soon.” Ned added.
“It sounds like you’ve got a good start on everything already.” Steve said. Jess nodded in agreement.
“Well that’s just it. I need some help around here to get things to where I’d really like them to be, especially when it comes to the animals and our food supply. That was really supposed to be Mary Lou’s area.” Ned admitted. He bowed his head a moment and exhaled.
“We’re so sorry about your wife.” Jess said. She reached out and laid her hand on Ned’s for a moment. “I wish I would have gotten to know her.” she added. Ned smiled at Jess.
“She would have loved you. I just know it. And that’s why I think I’m doing the right thing here. I’d like for you and Steve to take over the lead on the food supply and the animals.” Ned said. Steve and Jess glanced at one another.
“Wow, Ned. That’s a big responsibility. I mean we’re honored that you would put that trust in us. But we’ll have to talk about it. Maybe meet more of your group of course.” Steve said.
“Yep, I get that. Perfectly understandable. It’s a big thing to ask. But you both have skills that will come in handy and I’ve come to trust you both. And those kids of yours, they’ve already won a spot in my heart. Especially that little Delia.
You’re doing a fine job with them.” Ned said. “We could use your skills in the kitchen, Jess. And from what I’ve heard over the years, you’re also pretty comfortable around animals and people.” he added.
“And Steve, I could really use someone who knows their way around guns like you do. We’ve got some kids that need to learn and I’ve seen how you are with your kids.” Ned said.
Steve exchanged a glance with Jess. “This is all kind of sudden, Ned. And we’re pretty far from here. I’m not sure how much time we could allocate.” Steve said.
“It’s not that we don’t want to be part of what you have going. “ Jess added. “We certainly do want to participate. We’d just have to really think through whether we could take a lead role like you’re asking.
To take on that kind of role, we’d almost have to be at our cabin full time, even then it would be a lot of back and forth. That’s a big change. I’m not sure how the kids would react.” Jess explained.
“Yep, yep. I get that. Makes sense. You take some time to talk it over. Think it through. Our next monthly meeting is coming up. I’ll send you those details and instructions for how to get into our online forum. Come to the meeting and meet everyone, see what you think. Then we can talk again. Sound fair?” Ned asked.
“That works Ned. And thank you for your trust. We’ll talk it over and come to the meeting. Then we’ll let you know.” Steve said.
“Great. Good people need to stick together. And you two are definitely good people.” Ned said. Jess smiled at him.
“We feel the same about you, Ned.” Jess said.
“Alright then. Let’s see about getting you guys on the road so you can go check on that house of yours, eh?” Ned suggested.
(to be continued…)